Happy to Be Blessed: “Persecuted for Righteousness–>Kingdom of God”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
As we worship You, O Lord, please take away our sorrows and strengthen our faith in the face of our struggles that we might experience the joy of Your presence, in Christ’s name. We seek Your true blessing, and we hope to be that blessing for those around us in Jesus’ name. Amen.
In our Summer series of teachings on the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, today we come to the eighth Beatitude: 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We are in this list of Beatitudes because of the varieties and ferocities of struggles we have all witnessed in our homes, in our city, amongst our national leaders, and across this globe. These Beatitudes see these struggles as opportunities for blessing.
Do we need mercy shown in our world? Here’s an opportunity for blessing: BE GRACE-FILLED!
Do we need peace in our world? Here’s an opportunity for blessing: MAKE PEACE!
The 1st four Beatitudes are all about how much WE NEED GOD in order to live fulfilled lives! Poor in spirit, mourning over that poverty, humbled by our spiritual condition, and then, transitionally we begin to resemble God’s character by desiring righteousness. And God promises His eternal presence and comfort and satisfaction.
And then the 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits that will form in those who follow Jesus well. Like the fruit of the Spirit, these grow in us as we grow in Christ.
Listen with me to these words of Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon of the Mount. Matthew 5:1-2 and 3-10 ….—-
1 Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Take a quick look at what we just read. Your Sermon Notes page lists two more verses (we’ll get to them next week), but I want to suggest that the proper list of Beatitudes actually ends here, in verse 10, with Beatitude #8. Here’s why:
What do you notice about verse 3, Beatitude #1, and verse 10, Beatitude #8? They are the only two with the same Promise (“for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”). And verse 11 starts with a very different subjective pronoun – the first 8 say, “Blessed are those (or the) …”; verse 11 says, “Blessed are you …”. I think the proper Beatitudes end with today’s verse, and the next line is like a postscript, an application, an assignment. We’ll get there next Sunday.
So Beatitude #1 and Beatitude #8 are like bookends – “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
The first four Beatitudes all describe the needs of a disciple. They remind us that, as human beings longing for eternal love, we need a Savior – who has come to us in the person of the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.
Remember that the Greek word Matthew uses for “blessed” is Makarios, which refers to the BELIEVER in Christ who is SATISFIED and SECURE by the indwelling of the HOLY SPIRIT. (StudyLight.org) This is much more than the simple word “happy”. Makarios implies that there is nothing else needed.
The 5th Beatitude begins a list of CHRIST-like character traits.
Being “MERCIFUL” displays a life filled with God’s grace.
Being “PURE in HEART” reveals one’s utmost priority in life.
Being a “PEACE–MAKER” exhibits our spiritual genes.
But now, verse 10, Beatitude #8, shifts gears again. Yes, being persecuted is a Christ-like character trait.
Being “PERSECUTED for RIGHTEOUSNESS” is exactly what JESUS did!
And there’s another place-marker. The first four Beatitudes end with desiring RIGHTEOUSNESS. And the second four end with being persecuted for that same RIGHTEOUSNESS!
The Beatitudes are both bookended with kingdom of heaven and sectioned-off landing on the theme of righteousness.
But did you hear a difference between this Beatitude and the first seven? What is that difference?
Any English majors out there? Any linguists? School teachers? What do you notice about the verb used in today’s Beatitude? It is in the PASSIVE voice! All the other Beatitudes are ACTIVE verbs (including the to-BE verbs): BE poor in spirit; MOURN; BE meek; HUNGER & THIRST for righteousness; HAVE mercy; SHOW a pure heart; MAKE peace.
Beatitude #8: PERSECUTED!
This is the result of being one who recognizes spiritual poverty, mourns that condition, humbly accepts that truth, desires God’s righteousness, acts mercifully, keeps God’s kingdom as top priority, and steps into the riotous mess and makes peace. These people will be persecuted!
Maybe this is the litmus test for how well we actually live into the other Beatitudes. Am I persecuted? If not, maybe I’m really not living like Jesus wants me to live….
But before we get too far down that road, let’s make sure we understand what it means to be persecuted? Being “unfriended” on Facebook is not persecution for righteousness!
There are Christ-followers across this globe who are thrown in prison, hunted down and tortured, whose families are criminalized because of their Christian faith. That is persecution.
Someone “unfriending” me because I post a comment about Jesus hardly meets that kind of definition.
However, we do live in a world now, here in America, where there is some legit persecution happening – where businesses are sued, where people face unemployment, where lives are threatened because of a Christian perspective.
Because that’s what this persecution is about! “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness” means for doing the WORK of our heavenly Father in the midst of a world that REJECTS that!
And the promise for this Christ-like character trait (as we’ve already seen in the 1st Beatitude) is to be given the “KINGDOM of HEAVEN” – abiding with God and His blessings forever!
But let’s not miss one more distinctive. In Beatitudes #2-#7 the promise is always future tense – they will be comforted, will inherit the earth, will be filled, will be shown mercy, will see God, will be called children of God. But in Beatitudes #1 and #8 it is very present tense. “Theirs IS the kingdom of heaven!”
Friends, being persecuted is no fun. Boris spent years in prison, in solitary confinement, simply because he was a Christ-following church leader under the regime of a communist/socialist government. None of that was any fun! Yesterday’s paper told us that Spokane’s Slavic churches have on display a museum of different ways that Christians in Ukraine Kyrgyzstan and Belarus hid their Bibles because to get caught with one meant prison! But experiencing the kingdom of God does not wait for us to die and “go to heaven”. “Theirs IS the kingdom of heaven!” Right now! In power and in grace!
How do we live this Beatitude out?
Some of you will remember that these Beatitudes are stated in what is called an Indicative/Imperative clause. The statement Indicates a truth/and then imperates our behavior.
- The truth is that as followers of Jesus, as people who call Jesus both Lord and Savior, we are people who might be persecuted for righteousness.
And the command is to live our faith out loud in such a way that that happens. And the promise is for right now! The Old Testament prophet Isaiah once said (again, note the verb tense), “8 He hath swallowed up death in victory, And wiped hath the Lord Jehovah, The tear from off all faces, And the reproach of His people He turneth aside from off all the earth, For Jehovah hath spoken.
9 And [one] hath said in that day, ‘Lo, this [is] our God, We waited for Him, and He saveth us, This [is] Jehovah, we have waited for Him, We joy and rejoice in His salvation.’” (Isaiah 25, YLT)
Do you live that out? Do you want to? Is Jesus in your life? Let’s make that happen today – the kingdom of heaven, right now!
Living and gracious God,
through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ
You have brought us out to a spacious place
where we are called to live as those redeemed.
Empower us by Your Holy Spirit to keep Your commandments,
that we may show forth Your love
with gentle word and reverent deed
always, everywhere. Amen.
Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange; hermeneutics.stackexchange.com.
“Makarios: Blessed; the state of one who has become a partaker of God; to experience the fullness of God”; StudyLight.org.
Glodo, Michael J.; “Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake”; TableTalk; June 2017; Pp 28-30.